Past Program

Sep 27 - Oct 01, 2014

Defining America: New Writing, New Voices, New Directions


The United States is always in flux. In a sense, change is its defining quality and recent demographic movements and technological developments are transforming all aspects of cultural expression and reshaping social and creative interactions. New writing in new voices is suggesting new directions.

This session will examine the impact of these transformations on American experience and analysis.  Are these new voices assuming greater significance? To what extent are novelists, poets, dramatists and those involved in the growing field of non-fictional prose engaged in a dialogue about American identity, or has that conversation moved elsewhere? Questions linger as to why and in what direction the United States is
moving and whether contemporary work produced by Americans retains what might be called distinctly "American" characteristics.

In addition, forms of writing, publishing and book-selling are themselves being transformed. We note the gradual disappearance of bookstores and the power of online sales, the emergence of the graphic novel, blogs which develop into books, and self-published works appearing on literary prize lists. What is the impact of these changes on literary expression and cultural liveliness in America today? Are books on paper a dying technology?

We will examine new and established writers, listen to their literary and cultural voices and try to determine where America might be headed. To do so we invite a mix of the academic and the practitioner interested in contemporary aspects of creative American writing.

Questions to keep in mind throughout the session will include the following

  • What are the demographic changes that relate to the new voices, new writing and evolving direction and cultural creative future of the United States?
  • Can we still refer in any meaningful way to distinctly American novels, poetry, theatre, etc. or have technological and demographic changes in the United States changed cultural agendas entirely?
  • Has the spread of the Spanish language and importance of ethnic groups changed the definition of the American experience? 

Are new authors and artists telling us something original and compelling about the changing culture of contemporary America?

For information about being a participant, contact Symposium Director Ms. Marty Gecek,

Participant Profile

Salzburg Global Seminar will welcome approximately 50 participants from 25 countries around the world to the symposium. The majority of the participants will be university professors of American Studies, specifically those teaching and conducting research on American literature and American cultural studies themes. We will also welcome academics and practitioners interested in the current challenges faced by the publishing industry, as forms of writing and publishing are being transformed. Participants will examine the impact of these changes on literary expression and cultural liveliness in America today.

Session Format

There will be short presentations by designated speakers, followed by plenary discussion. There will also be one or more panels by senior participants, In addition, a number of small theme-based discussion groups will be organized, focusing on areas of interest selected by participants before arrival in Salzburg.

Program Goals

Through this session, Salzburg Global Seminar seeks to achieve the following:

  • Provide university professors with the latest information about the literary and cultural voices in contemporary America, and their impact on American life, for transmission to their students
  • Examine the current challenges to the publishing industry and their impact on literary expression
  • Encourage inter-university exchanges of speakers and students in areas related to American Studies